"As Pen Pals begins, Aaron—or somebody very much like him; he’s always refused to say where his characters stand on the continuum between fiction and memoir—he’s hanging out in downtown Berkeley, pondering those same sorts of questions on a physical as well as a metaphysical plane.
He’s frustrated that he and his friends, even those who’ve lived there all their lives, can’t find their way into Berkeley society. He feels like part of an orphan generation, cut off, ignored, all but abandoned by the aging hippies, New Leftists and baby boomers who appear to have put the town on permanent lockdown for their own exclusive use.
He’s joined by a young woman who laughs at his concerns, mocks his ever-widening but largely hopeless quest to make contact with older writers, philosophers and agitators, and with whom he’s about to form a lifelong relationship that, as the title suggests, will be played out more in pen and ink than flesh and blood.
Many years later he awakens, almost as from a dream, on the other side of the country, on another street corner, realizing with tentative satisfaction that he’s found the purpose—part of it anyway—and perhaps the place he’d been seeking. He’s made it from callow youth to middle age without having to surrender to the compromises he once feared, with hopes and values largely intact, and the tenuous outlines of a meaningful future beginning to take shape.
It’s a gentle, almost poetic journey that, because of its loping, discursive pace and its deceptively dyspeptic asides, hits all the harder when the reader discovers—just as Aaron himself does—where this has been going all along. The point is not —never has been—what town or what neighborhood he ends up living in, nor what job or jobs he ends up doing. What counts is the connections he learns to make, often through painful trial and error, with those who have come before and will come after him, and, ultimately, with society, community and life itself." -Larry Livermore
Read the full article here: https://larrylivermore.com/2013/02/11/aaron-cometbus-pen-pals/